by Peter Badham

The bread and butter records we use as family historians for basic information on births, marriages and deaths rarely hold much detail to give colour to our ancestors’ lives. Our imaginations may be prompted if we find a Christmas Day marriage or perhaps one of the mass-produced baptisms to be found in some of the fashionable London churches in the nineteenth century. As we have seen,1 St George’s Hanover Square racked up 1,365 baptisms in the year 1831. Elsewhere in this Journal are the rich details to be found in the Will of Lucas Garvey and we have previously looked at the Will of Evan Baddam of Llysyfrane in issues 5 and 6. After Wills, it is perhaps the documents produced by legal proceedings that best flesh out the bare stories and, sometimes, the more remote or complex family relationships. Locally, Quarter Sessions records may be helpful but this article looks at examples from a national series of records to be found in Chancery Proceedings. The first of the Chancery Roll Series of records which has survived dates back to 1199 and this series contains grants of titles, land and privileges continuing to 1937. A different kind of proceeding emerged in the reign of Edward III when, basically, the King’s Lord Chancellor started to act as an arbiter hearing civil disputes. An example of this was Thomas ap Adam’s complaint that his wife had been stolen along with 70 charters and the wrecking of his castle.2 By the late Tudor period there was a well-established Royal Court of Chancery with its own particular ways and records.3 The Chancery Court workings in the nineteenth century have been fictitiously described with some bleak realism by Charles Dickens.4

As a simple example of information relating to south-east Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean, but to be found in London at The National Archives, is a bill of complaint for 1719 in class C11.5 The C in the reference obviously stands for Chancery and C11 covers the period 1714 to 1758 and on the shelves are 2,793 boxes of records for this class. The indexing and breakdown of record groups is complex and reflects the physical organisation of the records which, in its original form, is not very helpful, especially when it comes to identifying individuals or family names. We are fortunate, however, that the whole of this particular series has been included in “Bernau’s Index”. Charles Allen Bernau with a team of helpers between 1914 and 1929 indexed many names from a number of sources but principally from national records held at what was then the Public Record Office but is now The National Archives. The Society of Genealogists in 1996 produced a useful booklet called How to Use the Bernau Index by Hilary Sharp. A downloadable leaflet, Chancery Proceedings: Equity Suits from 1558; Legal Records Information 22, may also be obtained from The National Archives website. There are 126 Badham or ap Adam references in this index and although there is some overlap of documents and some refer to apprenticeships or Wills, we have barely scratched the surface of this group of records.

To go back to Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean, document C11/394/2 from 1719 shows us that William Badham owned the Upper Crown Inn in Chepstow and is in dispute with his tenant John Bourcher about the state of repair of the inn. Chepstow High Street slopes steeply and the Upper Crown was created from the upper half of the Two Crowns in 1716 only three years before the dispute. William Badham the younger makes a deposition to the effect that he is the eldest son and heir of the complainant William Badham, senior, by Katherine his wife and is aged 28 or thereabouts and is a baker from Tidenham which is across the Wye on the edge of the Forest of Dean. There is obviously more in the document about the state of the inn but this is the genealogical information available from this London-held record. So here we have additional information on Family Two of the family trees described in Journal 7, and William junior must be the one whose death was recorded on the stone which received such attention from the “near 16”, present at Tidenham on 19 May 2007.6 This must also be the same William who is the earliest baker in Chepstow known by name7 who had premises on the High Street from 1732 to 1753, which last, is the date of death on the Tidenham tomb (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 - William Badham tomb

There may be upstairs remains of the Inn over a charity shop in Chepstow High Street but a little further up the pavement the family is remembered in a plaque set into the slabs (see Figure 2).

The family details given on the plaque do not seem to be entirely correct. It seems likely from the occupation and date of death that William Badam, the baker who died in 1753, is the same baker who is the son of William and Catherine, as we have learnt from the Chancery proceedings. We have no evidence that the William who died in 1753 was married and the likelihood is that the Elizabeth who held the shop was the wife, née

Figure 2 - A Plaque from the Chepstow Town Trail, for No 7 High Dtreet

Giles, of a cousin William of the same generation. Obviously the Chancery Proceedings mentioned above were not known to the author of the plaque details. Number 7 was held by the Vicar because, after many of the lines died out, the only relatives were through Mrs. Sarah Badam nee Holloway. She was the wife of another William Badham b. 1744 the son of Hopkin Badham and their only child Tryphena had died aged one. Their niece and heiress was also a Sarah, née Holloway, and she married the Vicar, William Morgan. This particular Chancery document is relatively simple and it is possible that further research would identify other documents relating to this conflict.

Our second example is much more complex and is delineated on a piece of parchment approximately three feet square, one of a number of which have been roughly sewn together on their top edge and rolled up into a tight bundle. Like many of the others, this one is dusty and has a life of its own when you try to hold it flat to read it, requiring several tons of lead to keep it under control! The document reference is C11/859/17, and on 19th October 1727 Oliver Pierson of St Mary Whitechapel, Middlesex, gent., together with Martin Search of St James Westminster, who is a linen draper, are said to be assignees in the estate and effects of Thomas Badham, brazier, who is said to be bankrupt. Oliver and Martin complain that by his Will of 28th February 1714 George Wooley a Merchant Taylor of St Clement Danes, Middlesex, left the considerable sum of £500 in trust for his nephew John Cope when 22 and £500 to his niece Ann Cope for her sole use at 20 and for her main-tenance until then. The executors were William Wilson and Abel Slaney. Nephew John Cope died in 1717 and there is a long description of executors dying and being replaced and it turns out that brazier Thomas of St James Westminster married the said Ann Cope on or about 25th July 1722. In fact we only know this last date because of another document in the same suit.8

By this means Thomas became owner of the two legacies of £500, and C11/859/17 goes on to say that Thomas Badham “did gain to himself great credit in his way of trade as a brazier”. It seems he overdid the credit bit and built up very large debts including some to “this orator”, that is, the complainant Oliver Pierson. As a result when the crunch came Thomas “absconded for fear of arrest”. In purely genealogical terms we know from these two documents that Thomas Badham was a brazier, we know the probable date of the marriage and a possible parish, we know also that Ann Cope’s brother John Cope died in 1717, we know that her mother’s maiden name was Wooley and that her maternal uncle was George Wooley who died in 1714. The deposition also tells us that George Wooley’s Will is to be found in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. As is indicated above, one of the problems of the Chancery filing methods is that different documents for the same proceedings may be filed separately with different references. Also, if it weren’t for the Bernau Index we would be unlikely to search under the complainant’s name of Oliver Pierson who is no relative at all. It is probable there are other documents in the same suit that I haven’t found, so although we have the beginning of the story, so far the end eludes us and in any case many of these suits were settled out of court and the result not recorded.


  1. Badham Delvings, p.186
  2. Badham Delvings, p.23
  3. For a detailed look at this process of development see the introduction to Chancery, Equity, Records and Proceedings 1600-1800 by Henry Horwitz (1995, Public Record Office Handbook 27) or for a more specifically family historian point of view, Chancery Court Proceedings for the Family Historian by Guy Lawton (1995, Public Record Office).
  4. See Chapter 1 of Bleak House.
  5. The National Archives (TNA) C11/394/2
  6. See the Newsletter of the Badham One Name Society, June 2007.
  7. A Chepstow Notebook by Ivor Waters (1980, Moss Rose Press), limited edition of 100.
  8. The National Archives (TNA) C11/1704/17